The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has vowed to tackle vote buying in the upcoming Osun State Election.
The Chairman of the commission, Mahmood Yakubu, said this on Friday at INEC’s consultative meeting with political parties at the National University Commission (NUC) auditorium.
The Osun governorship election is scheduled for September 22 with 48 political parties presenting candidates.
This number of parties, Mr Yakubu said, is the highest number so far for any election in Nigeria.
However, INEC promised to do all within its powers to end the phenomenon of vote buying, saying it is working with security agencies in this direction.
Mr Yakubu called for the cooperation of political parties who he said have a part to play as the vote buyers are their candidates.
“We are looking forward to the Osun State governorship election to make a very definite statement on vote buying. Right now, we are working with security agencies to arrest and also prosecute and also make public show of how not to behave in a democracy. So when the time comes, don’t say you were not forewarned.”
The commission said it has been doing everything to improve on the processes and the transparency of the electoral process such that everyone in the country now knows that votes count.
He said this is probably the reason why candidates and parties now resort to vote buying, but stressed that this must be tackled as this practice cannot be allowed into the 2019 general elections.
“We can’t carry this menace into the 2019 general elections and Osun is going to be the laboratory for us to test all the processes that we intend to introduce to address this menace of vote buying.
“We are witnessing a trend in most recent elections, and that is the menace of vote buying. And to be very frank, the vote buyers are your own candidates and actors because these are the people looking for votes.”
These vote buyers, Mr Mahmood said “are giving the nation’s democracy a very bad name and this cannot be condoned.
“Our democracy, I keep saying this, cannot be available for sale in the open market on Election Day. There is a difference between democracy and plutocracy, which is the government of the rich that only those who have money can win election.”
The commission which hosted the 91 new political parties also addressed the issues of primaries and how parties produce candidates.
He said the new trend where parties do not conduct primaries and just bring up a candidate or conduct primaries and before the names get to the headquarters in Abuja from the state capital, the name of the candidate who won the primary is changed, will no longer be tolerated.
Mr Mahmood said though the commission by law cannot reject the names of candidates, where it knows there had been a substitution from the original candidate or proper primaries were not conducted, it will name and shame any party involved in such.
He therefore urged that there should be communication between the parties and INEC if the need for substituting candidates arises or primaries cannot be conducted.
“I think we must deal with consensus if we want to grow our democracy. When this kind of things happens going forward, even though INEC has no power to reject under the law, we are going to name and shame. We will no longer keep quiet.”
The chairman pointed out that there are circumstances under which political parties can substitute, such as from appeal.
“It’s legal. If someone is aggrieved, you set up a committee within your party and you address grievances and replace the names of candidates and also officially by writing to the commission.”
In conclusion, he said credible elections are determined by credible primaries which is why the commission needs the cooperation of the parties to commit to the timetable and ensure transparent process/procedures for their primaries and nominations.